Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Information Pots

Much of my studio practice entails heaps of testing of glazes, techniques, etc. I sometimes make what I call information pots. I can do little tiny samples on test tiles but in reality the pieces are usually just too small to get a feel for how a particular effect will work on a large surface.

This is an information pot. I've learned a lot from this oval bowl . BTW, it was going to be a throw away from the beginning, it will never appear publicly anywhere but here. Actually, these don't really get thrown away. I use them in the garden for succulents and things like that. It's an interesting place, my garden.

The good news from this pot is that the bits on the rim that I broke (twice) can be repaired! This is fab news as this technique is fragile. A bit of paper clay slip works like wizardry! Even just before glazing. Yeah!

The bad news from this pot is that the clay it is made of does indeed have a really poonack colour (technical term, there). To get the colour clarity I want is going to require another step. But at least I know now before I commit some really big pieces to the fire.

For this series of pieces, I wanted to get at the raw clay feel to acheive a 'fossil' feel. Almost there. But that poonack clay colour rears it's ugly head. Back to the testing. A few test tiles, information bowls, and I'm just about there to commiting to some larger pieces. Why use this clay? Well, it is just superb for scultptural pieces. And that is where this is headed.

The thing with working with clay that is so maddening is that there is just no going back once it's gone to the final firing. I can fix things up a wee bit with a second try at it but it's just not ever going to be quite right. But still I love working with clay. I love the feel of it, the smell of it.

But today, I worked with things that are familiar. That I've done before. That was satisfying. It left me open to thinking about other more distant work. That sort of balance between the familiar and the new keeps me creating new things.

I'm curious. What keeps you going?

Cheers, LeAnn

Monday, March 30, 2009

Fossils and Sea Things

Last week I was working with some wall tiles that had flower buttons "planted" on them. It struck me then how much like fossil coral they looked. This bowl is what came out of that.

I moved on from there to this large vase form. It was handbuilt over a 2 liter soda bottle. This photo is the naked start of the vase. It's only got its rim in place, thin 3 mm thick strips of most clay.

The next day I started the process of applying sprigs of clay to build up surface pattern of the vase.

And two days later and many hours and many hundreds of tiny little balls of clay, the vase is wrapped up and drying in my living room. Luckily no one in my house really minds having incomplete pottery 'decorating' our home.
The idea of working with fossil imagery has been with me for a while. I've always loved fossils and the idea that beneath us is this huge hidden sea from long ago. When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a paleontologist. Yes, I was a strange child. I've got a little box of fossils from my childhood camping holidays. There are brachipods and ammonites and coral in there. Just tiny little specimens. I think this new work must be what is resurfacing of my childhood dream.
I don't know where this new work is going. But that's OK. I do know that this is not the production work I need to get done by the end of the month. So for now, the next pieces will be slowly forming in my mind and I'll go back to making some things that will help me meet my deadlines. At least for a day or two.
Have a lovely week,

Friday, March 27, 2009


I have got a smile on my face. Remember my cheese making extravaganza? Well we got to taste one of the aged cheeses last nite. I opened up one of the ricotta salata that has been in the cheese fridge for a little less than 3 weeks. It was looking a bit sus on the outside (I’ve spared you a look at that). But inside was this wonderful creamy cheese. I think it got infected with my camembert mold, because that’s what it tasted like. It is rich, chockers full of butter fat. And it is yummy! I wish could share more than a photo with you.

Ricotta salata is pretty easy to make. It doesn’t require any fancy schmancy cheese making equipment. You basically make ricotta cheese which gets pressed for about 8 hours. Salt it on the outside for a few days. Wrap it up and wait 4-6 weeks. You can find out more about it at the New England Cheese Company. I use pretty much the same recipe, only with a quarter cup of white vinegar to 1 gallon of milk, instead of citric acid.

The hardest part about making ricotta salata is not eating the ricotta. Homemade fresh ricotta is divine.

Off I go to the studio. I am obsessing over a super secret project. It’s not really secret. It just isn’t ready to share yet.

Cheers, LeAnn

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Cristi, 2 If By Sea

My friend, Cristi, posted these 2 pieces a little while ago. But I just could not resist writing my own little bit about them. The daisy pendant is a pendant. I made it as a pendant. I could see it as a pendant. But I did not see it with the lovely play of green leafy beads and deep purple beads that Cristi put into the necklace. And if you look really closely the beading wire has got little teeny beads on it where it connects to the chain. Cristis’ attention to detail is one of things I like most about her work. It is these little details that make her work so delightful.

And the bracelet, aaahhhh, this is the first time I’ve seen one of my buttons used in a clasp. I especially like the shape and colour of the wood beads against the pattern in the button. This is, by the way, one of my personal favorite button styles. It’s one of the first patterns that I developed when I started focusing more on texture in my work. I just love the way Cristi has used the button. For me it has always been just a button. But Cristi has elevated it beyond its original rather utilitarian design.

Cristi’s jewelry has this wonderful sea breeze feel to it. It is elegant and crisp at the same time. Much like waves on the beach. I am always thrilled to see the vision others have for my components. It inspires me to think beyond the confines of my own little world.

You can follow Cristi’s blog to see more work in progress or you can go straight to her Etsy shop, 2ifBySea to purchase these lovelies.

Thanks, Cristi! These are beautiful.


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Into the Studio

Yesterday was one of those glorious spring days where the sun is bright, the temperature is perfect, birds are singing, the dogs are behaving, and all is right with the world. What that means for me is I get to spend time in my real studio. The one that is outside and looks a lot like a garage with kilns and big studio stuff.

I’ve had in mind a few things that I’ve wanted to do with my functional work for a while. And with a show coming up at the end of April, well it was just time to get moving. Nothing like a few deadlines to spark a bit of creativity.

I think that carpet of flowers in front of our cabin inspired me to create my own little version. Among other things I made a tray and little serving dishes that have got a flower pattern stamped into it. If you think it looks a little like the zinnia buttons you would be right. I made stamps a from the button molds and finally was inspired to use them. These are all ready to go into the kiln.

But what I am really excited about is this tile. It was bound to happen. The buttons would make their way onto the surface of something else. I see bright colours on this one!

This tile is made from lots of very thin, very moist, slabs of clay, a little less than 1/8” (3mm) thick. These are a bit tricky to work with. They are delicate coming off the slab roller and I did find out pretty early on that one does not pick up a large sheet of clay by the edge and try to carry it over to the work table. Harsh words were used when one particularly large slab of clay dropped onto the icky dirty floor.

But I’m pleased with the results. I like the plumpness of it and the sense of the inner void that it has. Making it was a lot like sewing. Each piece is cut, shaped, rolled up, and pinched together. Then I put on a back with a keyhole opening for hanging it. Now it is drying slowly. Too much drying too fast and it will crack apart into a zillion pieces. OK maybe that is an exaggeration.

Wishing you all a great spring day!


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Featuring Renate at Put a Little Magic in Your Life

Renate is my internet friend from Germany. I recently sent her a pair of connectors in an oval leaf pattern. I am always thrilled to see how people use my little pieces in their own work. I never in my wildest imagination saw the vision that Renate had. I am in love with the delicacy of this necklace.

Renate describes herself as “a collector – of many things (my mom used to call it junk). Pebbles, pieces of driftwood, bone, glass, seashells; the list could go on and on. It is just my nature. If I only could, I would collect colours – of the foliage in autumn, the subtle nuances within a blooming rose, the light of the sky.”

You can find her work on
Dawanda and on Etsy. It is worth a look. Her eclectic use of materials is so innovative. In fact she does not limit herself to jewelry. She also makes journals, paintings, and mixed media art. I’d love to see even more of her artwork. You can also follow her on her blog, Put a Little Magic in Your Life…. and magic you will get.

My favourite part of this necklace is the hand forged sterling silver heart shaped piece that the connector drops from. Renate does a lot of this in her work and it is always so beautiful. And then there are the buttons and the pearls and the glass. The rhythm in this piece is just wonderful.

Renate, thanks so much for creating this piece. I am always so grateful to see a simple little piece of mine brought to life in an extraordinary way!

Monday, March 23, 2009

We're Back!

We had a wonderful time. None of us have been to this part of Oklahoma before. Robber's Cave State Park is nestled into the forests of the San Bois Mountain range and it is truly a stunning area.

This is our little home away from home. The cabin is up on a rocky ridge surronded by short needle pine forest. Our front 'lawn' was carpeted with yellow and white spring flowers. Such a treat.

Morning is not always my friend. But when looking out the window from your bed gives you this, it is not too much of a chore!

Much of our hiking was more properly rock scrambling.

Not everyone in the park was happy to share their home with us. This cotton mouth snake took exception to sharing his fishing hole with my son and husband. Fortunately, this photo is as close as I got to him. I am uneasy with snakes, especially cranky venomous ones.

No television, no internet, no newspaper... A trip like this an indulgence for me. It is like being able to turn off a switch for a few days. I found myself spending a lot of time just sitting on a rock behind the cabin, absorbing the sound, the smell, the view. I find myself being able to truly enjoy small things like lichen on a rock, the intricacy of a pine cone, hawks overhead. I would love to bottle it all up and take it out like a magic potion that I could use to revitalize myself when I am on sensory overload from daily life. But in a way it is bottled up in my memory.
I spent a lot of time sketching, well, doodling, really. Just letting my mind wander aimlessly. It is spring and I feel fresh and new again. I'm ready to get back into the studio.
I hope all of you are feeling a bit of that spring time magic!
Cheers, LeAnn

Sunday, March 15, 2009

We're going on an adventure

And this is where we are going. This is Robber's Cave State Park in south east Oklahoma. We've never been before. But it is always exciting to go somewhere new. Our son did the internet research to find the park and we are meeting him there.

We'll be hiking, camp fire cooking, playing dominoes, and skipbo. No television. For me it is bliss to get away for a few days with nothing around but the trees and the wind. Usually we camp but this time we splurged on a small cabin. I like tent camping but at this time of year it will be a little slice of heaven to crawl into a nice warm bed at night.

This kind of trip always finds it's way back into my studio. For me experienceing new things is very inspirational and I'm quite drawn to nature. My sketch book will be going with me and my camera too. But more than anything, it is spending time with my family without the distractions of daily life that really revives my creative spirit. It gives my a great sense of peace and well being.

I'm off to pack. But before I go, I would like to say a big thank you to all of you generous people who gave me such great advice on jewelry components. Another rewarding source of inspiration for me has been this blog community!

Have a wonderful week all, LeAnn

Saturday, March 14, 2009


I woke up to an Etsy message this morning from junejaynes that she had my buttons in her treasury Add Spring to Your Hop. I am just tickled pink to be included in this treasury. I love the soft colours and the bunnies. That chenille softie bunny up there in the top left could come live with me. But then if it did, it would have a short life as it looks much like the flat pig softie my dog Alice likes to carry around. Anyway, I must say it's a really pretty treasury!

And thanks to Lisa at Lucid Moon Studio for putting together the information on using FireShot to capture a screen shot. I couldn't have done this without that!

Gotta run. I'm off thrift shopping with my friend Liz. The early bird gets the best junk.

Cheers, LeAnn

Friday, March 13, 2009

Two Questions

I’ve been playing around with making sets of beads/components for a while now. Sort of like what you see here. It was my daughter who suggested, actually maybe demanded a little, that I make things in sets. You see she is actually the reason I started making beads. She’s been making jewelry for several years and wanted to use my ceramics in her work. But a lack and alas she’s got little time for beading now that she is a fully certified and practicing ICU nurse.

So my question is, do you prefer your pendants and focals to come with beads and small components that match/coordinate?

From a ceramics perspective it’s easier to put things together in sets as each glaze firing will vary slightly, so no two things will be exactly the same. Sometimes they even vary from one section of the kiln to another. Being the perfectionist that I am, I like the glazes on components to be the same if they are being used together in a piece of jewelry. I can really only do that if it’s from the same firing. Maybe this isn’t so important?

From an Etsy listing perspective, it’s a lot easier to put together groups of things in order to keep those pesky listing and PayPal fees down. That 50 cents total listing and selling fee can really start to bump up the costs of what I think would be reasonable prices for individual items.

My second question is about technique. Again, my daughter influenced my ceramic practice. She doesn’t like the fired wire loops on my pieces. She doesn’t like them because they don’t match the brass wire and findings she prefers. She is very opinionated! I like them because the pieces are cleaner looking without holes in them. Does it matter to you?

Sets or not?
Wire loops or not?

I’d really love to hear from all of you!

Thanks and have a wonderful Friday, LeAnn

Thursday, March 12, 2009

So much to do

The time change is making havoc with my inner clock. We're on the western edge of the time zone. Only about 70 miles from the next time zone. So when I get up in the morning it is dark, really, really dark. Sunrise doesn't happen until about 8 am. It makes it hard to get moving in the morning. None the less, I've managed to sort out a little load of kiln goodies. Now it is on to photographing, packaging, listing, and sending the spoken for ones off to their new homes. I'm particularly pleased with the hibiscus pattern I was working on. It is quite delicate and glazes well. You can almost see them on the bottom of the photo.

The best part about my day to come is I get to go out to my friends for lunch. And the very best part of that is I get to meet her new baby, Anna, who I am told is perfect. I'm sure she is! I love new babies. All of that sweet innocence, milky smell mixed with soap, and the cuddles. All of that potential wrapped up in one tiny package. My very most favourite part of all is when babies grasp your huge finger in their amazingly small hand. The anticipation of meeting little Anna is surely something to get me moving this morning.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Just Say Cheese

Spring has sprung or so they say. We are definitely in spring mode here in West Texas with temperatures in the 70's, iris blooming, redbud popping with colour, and daffodils almost done. Some of my favourite things. But alas, spring comes with wind, dust storms, and pollen. And I have been sick for a week. It is a toxic time for me. I have asthma and this beautiful time of year can lay me low. And this week has been no exception. I can't get out to my studio equipment because it is just too nasty outside. But I'm whinging.

Instead, I've become quite absorbed in a non-studio project that I've wanted to start for a long long time. Cheese. I love cheese. I love living breathing cheese. I love artisan made cheeses. This week was the time to start and it helped that milk was on special for a mere $2.50 per gallon! So I've made chevre, ricotta, and more ricotta, something that resembled mozzarella, cheese curds, neufchatel, and the finale, a farmhouse cheddar. What you see above is a ricotta draining that is destined to become a ricotta salata and the cheddar pressing. This has been fun! And it all actually smells and, even better yet, tastes like cheese. At least the things that can be eaten fresh.

This little gem is a 1 pound tiny wheel of farmhouse cheddar. It is waiting to dry on the outside, get waxed, and then aged for 3 or more months. I made it on my sis's 50th birthday. I call it the Jean Memorial Cheese (in memory of her fading youth). My hubby on the other hand has a more optimistic take and refers to it as the Jean Commerorative Cheese. Is this one of those glass half empty or full things? At any rate this cheese is destined to travel 16 hours in June in an Eskie to celebrate! Tasty or not, it will be fun.

One thing I've learned over this week is that cheese making has a lot in common with ceramics making. Both require a lot of attention to detail: a feel for texture, patience, experience, experimentation..... They are both messy. I mean really, really messy. You get stuff all over your work surface, yourself, and really just about everywhere you've been working. But this weeks fun is all clean now and tomorrow I'm off to start work in the truly messy studio!

Cheers and best wishes for a great week,